Yuzvendra Chahal returned the stunning figures of 6 for 25 in four overs – the best by an Indian bowler in T20I history, and the third best overall – as England’s batsmen capitulated in woeful fashion at the end of a long and fruitless tour. In a remarkable finale, India claimed eight wickets for eight runs in 19 balls to derail what had, up to the start of the 14th over, been a spirited pursuit of 203 in the series decider.
Instead, India wrapped up a sweep of all three formats – following their 4-0 Test series win before Christmas and their high-scoring 2-1 win in the ODIs – to send Eoin Morgan’s men home empty-handed. And, as had been the case in each of the other two series, it was England’s fallibility to spin that proved their undoing, with Chahal’s flight and variation proving illegible to a succession of weary England batsman for whom the flight back to England now cannot come soon enough.
Responding to India’s imposing 202 for 6 – which had been built on half-centuries from Suresh Raina and MS Dhoni (remarkably his first in 76 T20Is spanning more than a decade) – Jason Roy once again set the tempo for England’s chase, and in a misleadingly eye-popping fashion. With Chahal taking the ball for the second over of the innings, Roy flipped his stance to the very first delivery and battered a switch hit into the stands for six. The more apposite moment of that same over, however, would prove to be the dismissal of Roy’s partner Sam Billings for a first-ball duck – caught in the gully by Raina as he inside-edged a drive onto his boot. Billings would turn out to be the first of five ducks in England’s innings, and none of them lasted more than two deliveries.
Root, who had been in decent form without quite hitting the sweet spot in the first two matches, appeared at first to have benefited from an early introduction to the chase – a first-ball mix-up with Roy notwithstanding. After all, his cool head had guided England to their thrilling pursuit of 230 against South Africa in the World T20 last year.
However, where he hadn’t once missed a beat against South Africa’s pace-dominant attack on that occasion, this time he couldn’t help but telegraph his unease as Chahal’s fellow leggie, Amit Mishra, twirled his way through a fine and constrictive four-over spell that set the stage for the carnage to come. His second ball did for Roy – who top-edged a slog-sweep to Dhoni for 32 – and his final over should have done for Root as well, only for Yuvraj Singh to drop a chance at backward point as the debutant, Rishabh Pant, charged over-eagerly into his peripheral vision.
Morgan did his utmost to maintain England’s tempo, carving Mishra for back-to-back fours through point before turning up the heat in Raina’s solitary over of offspin – three sixes in consecutive legal deliveries brought the asking rate back within two a ball. But, with the onus on more boundary-clearing, Morgan chanced his arm once too often against Chahal’s googly, and was caught in the deep for 40 from 21.
It was the incision that turned the game, and broke England’s resolve for the final time in an arduous campaign. One ball later, Chahal fizzed in a quicker delivery to pin Root lbw for 42, and in the very next over, Jasprit Bumrah’s reintroduction accounted once again for the dangerous Jos Buttler, who climbed into a second-ball pull to be caught by Kohli at mid-on for a duck.
Three wickets for no runs had left England’s morale in freefall, and worse was soon to follow. Moeen Ali galloped down the track to toe-end a Chahal googly to Virat Kohli at long-off, and though Ben Stokes picked off a rare drive for four, he was brilliantly caught in the same over as Raina contorted himself at deep midwicket to keep his balance as he intercepted a slog to the rope.
Chris Jordan then ran past a Chahal legbreak to be stumped for a second-ball duck and complete only the third six-wicket haul in T20 history, whereupon it was back to Bumrah to apply the mercy killing. Liam Plunkett missed a swipe across the line to be bowled first ball before, fittingly, it was the captain Kohli who wrapped up the winter with a fizzing catch in front of his face at slip as Mills gave himself room but found only a thick edge.
Having come within a couple of boundaries of winning the series in Nagpur, England ended up looking miles adrift of their first limited-overs victory in India since 1984-85. But the denouement wasn’t a true representation of the contest that had been unfolding up to that point, with India’s veteran middle-order forced to reprise some of their very finest form to secure their hefty total.
Despite the obvious advantage of chasing in T20 cricket, Morgan’s decision to bowl first wasn’t exactly a disappointment to a fervent Chinnaswamy crowd, who had instead settled back in the expectation of watching their local hero, Kohli, replicate his derring-do for Royal Challengers Bangalore. They weren’t, however, ready for what followed, as Kohli – eager to get a move on – called for an impossible leg bye against Chris Jordan and was left flailing his displeasure as his partner, KL Rahul, rightly declined the opportunity as Jordan swooped to fling off the bails in his followthrough.
Raina made it his duty to revive the crowd’s morale after that shock to the system. A sliced drive to cover off Plunkett eventually did for him in the 14th over, but with five towering sixes in his 63 from 47 balls, he had set the stage for a crowning cameo from Yuvraj, a man well used to bringing out his long handle in T20s against England.
Lurking deep in his crease to negate Chris Jordan’s search for the fuller length, Yuvraj sprang through his stance to crash six, six, four, six in consecutive deliveries – none of them an especially poor delivery. It took an obscene piece of trickery to prise him from the crease, as Tymal Mills returned for his final over, and immediately unleashed an illegible slower ball. Setting himself for an 150kph exocet, Yuvraj instead fenced a looping edge to the keeper to depart for 27 from 10.
Dhoni, by this stage, had chalked off an improbably belated milestone by reaching his maiden T20 fifty from 32 balls with four fours and two sixes. After his departure in the final over, Hardik Pandya applied the gloss finish with a smoked six through the hands of Roy at long-on, while Pant had a brief opportunity to acquaint himself to international cricket by pulling second ball for four en route to 6 not out from three balls. It may have been a scant contribution, but only three of England’s batsman managed to outdo him. It was that sort of a day, to crown that sort of a tour. Agencies